Fitbit's activity-tracking wearable devices are already being used by a number of academic institutions to determine if they might be able to contribute to the early detection of COVID-19 and the flu, and now Fitbit itself is launching its own dedicated Fitbit COVID-19 Study, which users can sign up for from within their Fitbit mobile app.
The study will help the company figure out if it can successfully develop an algorithm to accurately detect a COVID-19 infection before the onset of systems. In order to gather the data needed to see if they can do this, Fitbit is asking users in either the U.S. or Canada who have either had or currently have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or flu-like symptoms that might be an indicator of an undiagnosed case, to answer some questions in order to contribute to its research.
The answer to these questions from participants will be paired with data gathered via their Fitbit to help identify any patterns that could potentially provide an early warning about someone falling ill. Pre-symptomatic detection could have a number of benefits, most obviously in ensuring that an individual is then able to self-isolate more quickly and prevent them from infecting others.
Early detection could also have advantages in terms of treatment, allowing health practitioners to intervene earlier and potentially prevent the worst of the symptoms of the infection. Depending on what treatments ultimately emerge, early detection could have a big impact on their efficacy.
Fitbit is asking those who would take part in the study to answer questions about whether or not they have or have not experienced COVID-19 or the flu, or its symptoms, as well as other demographic and medical history info. Participation in the study is voluntary, in case you're not comfortable sharing that info, and once in, participants can decided to withdraw whenever they want.
COVID-19 early detection could be a big help in any safe, actually practical return-to-work strategy for reopening the economy. It could also serve as a means of expanding diagnosis in combination with testing, depending on how accurate it's found to be across these studies, and with what devices. A confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis doesn't actually have to mean a test result; it could be a physician's assessment based on a number of factors, including biometric data and symptom expression. Depending on what a comprehensive mitigation strategy ends up looking like, that could play a much bigger role in assessing the scale and spread of COVID-19 in the future, especially as we learn more about it.